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Yesterday morning, 4-year-old Asul learned that her father, Warrant Officer Lutfi Nasereldeen, had been killed. "Since then, she has not stopped crying," said her uncle Hadi, who was also in tears.

Asul will celebrate her fifth birthday tomorrow, and "Lutfi was so much looking forward to it," said a close friend, Danny Maklada. "He was going to come and surprise his daughter. She was his entire life, his soul."

Nasereldeen, 38, of Daliat al-Carmel, was a career army officer. On Monday, his Golani Brigade unit was transferred to the Nahal Oz Base near the Gaza Strip. The soldiers were preparing for a possible ground operation in Gaza when a mortar shell launched from the Strip hit him.

His grandfather, Amal, a Likud Knesset member from 1977-88, described Nasereldeen as "a man with an academic education, a cultured man, who loved and was loved by everyone. He wanted to continue to serve his country.

"We, the Druze, believe that God gives and God takes away," added Amal, who also lost a son - the uncle for whom Lutfi was named - in a battle with terrorists in 1969.

Nasereldeen was laid to rest yesterday. He is survived by his wife Hanan, his daughter, his parents Latifa and Wajiya, two brothers and two sisters.